The mysteries of Caen
Visit the Caen tourist office to start your quest and follow in the footsteps of William the Conqueror.
Stage 1 | The Hôtel d'Escoville
Knights, our quest begins here! Here is a truly typical example of a 16th century town house! Its interior courtyard pays a fine tribute to the rich ornamentation of Italian influence that was adopted in the early Renaissance period. You can even see two splendid Tubulcaïns, biblical figures believed to have invented strength.
One of the statues here represents David, famous for having slain a giant. Do you know the giant's name?
I see your adventure is off to a good start, fellow knight! Let's hurry to the Church of Saint-Pierre!
Wrong answer! What if I tell you the giant had a rather unusual name?Submit my answer
Stage 2 | The Church of Saint-Pierre
Here we are at last! Inside the famous 12th century Church of Saint-Pierre (St. Peter). At the time, it was considered to be the most important and the richest in the city. It is a fine illustration of the entire evolution of Norman Gothic architecture. The church is famous for its spire, considered to be a model of Norman Gothic church spires, and for its Renaissance chevet, a genuine masterpiece
Look carefully at the superb church facade. What shape is the main window?
Well done! Don't waste a second and head for the Tour Leroy.
By Jove no - open your peepers! Try something circular and you'll find the right answer.Submit my answer
A short history lesson
Since the Church of Saint-Pierre is built on the town's medieval port, its foundations of on piles. Certain period engravings depict the River Odon flowing round the church apse; it was in the 19th century that a canal was created, later to be buried under the present-day Boulevard du Maréchal Leclerc.
Stage 3 | Tour Leroy
Tour Leroy is a tower built in the late 14th century to defend the entrance to the medieval port. It is one of the most important vestiges of the town's fortifications. Proudly looming at the foot of the castle, it also bears witness to Caen's importance as a harbour town.
Many of the region's historic monuments are built using a specific type of limestone and the Tour Leroy is one of them. Do you know its name?
Congratulations! Let's now head for Bourg l'Abesse for your next riddle.
Don't look so far away - we are talking about a local material!Submit my answer
Stage 4 | Bourg l'Abbesse
Located close to the marina, this popular inner suburb was referred to as 'Bourg l'Abess' prior to the French Revolution. The houses of wealthy craftsmen, poor quarrymen and lacemakers rubbed shoulders along its Rue Haute. Charlotte de Corday d'Armont, famous for having murdered Marat, spent part of her childhood here.
Bourg l'Abesse owed its name to what nearby major site?
Absolutely - I'm impressed! The Ladies' Abbey still has a few surprises in store for you. You can discover them inside.
Good try! Look for a truly feminine reference...Submit my answer
Stage 5 | The Ladies' Abbey
Founded by my lady-love as a penance for our marriage, for I am her distant cousin, the Ladies' Abbey originally housed Benedictine nuns. An abbess, generally chosen from the noblest of Norman families, was named to oversee them. The monastic buildings were acquired by the Lower Normandy Regional Council in 1983. Today they house the region's administrative services.
I am William the Conqueror's wife and I am behind the initiative to build the Ladies' Abbey. I am laid to rest here since 1083. I am:
Decidedly, my life story is no secret to you! The vestiges of the Church of Saint-Gilles are no more than ruins today.
Oh no, that's not the name of my sweetheart. Here's a clue: Her Flemish name is Mathilda van Vlaanderen.Submit my answer
Stage 6 | The Church of Saint-Gilles
This early Christian edifice was 26 feet wide and at least 65 feet long. The base of the walls is in blocked up raw stone, whereas the roof was very probably thatched. The first text to mention this church dates from between 1066 and 1082.
During which war was the edifice destroyed by bombing?
By George, what connoisseurs you are! Another church awaits you... let's ride to Saint-Sépulcre!
Goodness no! The correct answer is the most recent of the 3.Submit my answer
A short history lesson
The Church of Saint-Gilles' history is an eventful one. First of all, the church choir was demolished in the 19th century following changes in the road network and despite great protest. In 1865, it lost its status as a parish church, attributed to the Holy Trinity, and was finally bombed in 1944.
Stage 7 | The Church of Saint-Sépulcre
On his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Guillaume Acarin, a citizen from Caen, had a church built in 1219 to place a piece of the True Cross. The church was pillaged in 1346, then in 1417 by the English during the Hundred Years' War, whereas the collegiate was demolished in August 1562 on orders from Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon and governor of Normandy.
Built in homage to the Saint Sepulchre of Jerusalem, my name refers to:
Well done, let's hurry now! We must go to the Vaugueux quarter for the next step.
By Jove no! It is neither a cup nor a book.Submit my answer
Stage 8 | The Vaugueux quarter
The name Vaugueux designates both a street and a quarter, both of which are hidden away at the foot of the castle. The first mention of Rue du Vaugueux dates back to 1210; the street later gave its name to an inner suburb developed at the foot of the Saint-Sépulcre collegiate. This popular quarter, located between the Castle and the harbour, was once ill-famed. Due to its location, the Vaugueux quarter has always been a strategic crossroads. Before heading off for the next phase, take the time to admire the large arches on the buildings in Rue Froide which, as from the 15th century, became home to many printers.
Find out which old expression is behind my name:
How clever you are! Let's gallop to the Rue Froide!
The correct answer is very similar to the resulting name.Submit my answer
Stage 9 | Rue Froide
This narrow winding street in Caen's old quarters has preserved all its medieval charm. Its name, which literally means 'cold street', comes from the fact that the sun rarely shines here and cannot warm up its dark and damp atmosphere. The facades of the cramped houses in Rue Froide all have a corridor that leads to an inner courtyard. All the rooms arranged around this courtyard, stretch out inside the surrounding buildings.
What profession, that was widespread throughout Caen, used to be particular to this street?
My fellow knights - you have all the right answers! Your journey now continues in Place Saint-Sauveur!
Yikes - not at all! What if I tell you that this profession is connected with paper?Submit my answer
Stage 10 | Place Saint-Sauveur
This is the spot where, every Monday and every Friday, markets and other events, such as fairs, were held. Yet, the square has not always been the site of festivities, for it was, for many years, used for capital and public executions.
What other name was given to Place Saint-Sauveur?
My congratulations dear knights! Let's waste no time and gallop to the Men's Abbey.
By Jove no! It has no connection with a historic figure.Submit my answer
A short history lesson
In the Middle Ages, public sentences and executions were for 3 reasons. Everyone knew who had been sentenced and why, hence discouraging the population from committing any further crimes. Yet the most shameful of reasons was that the public genuinely appreciated the spectacle offered by death.
Stage 11 | The Men's Abbey
Founded in 1063, upon my personal orders, and devoted to Saint-Etienne (St. Stephen), the Men's Abbey was home to Benedictine monks who spent their lives praying and studying. It also welcomed pilgrims on their way to the Mont Saint-Michel. Transformed into a high school in 1804, the abbey served as a refuge for the local population during the Battle of Caen in 1944. Today it houses the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall and Council).
Founded on his request, the Men's Abbey is home since 1087 to his grave. Who is he?
Of course it's me! I was right to place my trust in you. Malherbe's birthplace now awaits you for your second last phase!
By George, how could you forget the name of your guide throughout this whole adventure! In France they call me Guillaume le Conquérant.Submit my answer
Stage 12 | Half-timbered houses
On your way here, you very probably noticed two pretty half-timbered houses in Rue Saint-Pierre boasting a medley of Flamboyant and Renaissance ornamentation. Built in the early 16th century, these two houses also comprise the traditional stone that was used for most of the houses in Caen.
At what numbers in Rue Saint-Pierre can we admire these superb half-timbered houses?
Well done! Caen Castle impatiently awaits you.
Open your peepers! They are separated by just one number.Submit my answer
A short history lesson
Following an edict in 1735, the town's aldermen asked home owners to replace their old houses - most of which were in half-timbering - by new buildings according to a specific architectural programme. Their harmonious and regular alignment is only punctuated by a few private mansions with triangular pediments.
Stage 13 | Caen Castle
On your way, you very surely came across the house where the most famous of Caen's poets, François de Malherbe (1555-1628) was born. Malherbe's name is everywhere throughout the town of Caen, from the football team to the printers. Caen Castle was founded in the Middle Ages, around the year 1060, and many alterations have been made since. It is located on a rocky spur and overlooks a marshy valley where the River Orne and its tributaries flow. With a surface area of 5.5 hectares, it is one of the largest castle enclosures in Europe. Almost all of the castle's buildings and vestiges are listed as historic monuments since 1997.
Places to eat nearby
La Petite Marmite
43 rue des Jacobins
14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 86 15 20
Ty Gibus Restaurant
17 bis rue des Tilleuls
14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 86 01 33 Visit the website
Cuisine et Cave
11 rue de la Dronnière
14123 IFS Tel : 02 31 84 52 51 Visit the website
Restaurant O Chef
3 Chemin de la Cavée
Route de Paris
Places to sleep nearby
31 rue du 11 Novembre
14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 84 59 76 Visit the website
Hôtel des Quatrans
17 rue Gémare
14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 86 25 57 Visit the website
50 rue de Bernières
14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 86 01 26 Visit the website
Hôtel Le Vaucelles
13 rue de Vaucelles
14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 82 23 14
Best Hôtel Caen Citis
717, Avenue du Général de Gaulle
14200 HEROUVILLE-SAINT-CLAIR Tel : 02 31 47 40 00 Visit the website
Hôtel B&B Caen Mémorial
Rue du Clos Barbey
Zac du Clos Barbey
14280 SAINT-CONTEST Tel : 08 92 70 75 17 Visit the website
- La Bataille de Val ès Dunes 14370 ARGENCES Tel : 02 31 85 38 82 Visit the website
Abbaye aux Hommes
Hôtel de Ville
Esplanade Jean-Marie Louvel
14027 CAEN Tel : 02 31 30 42 81 Visit the website
Abbaye aux Dames
Place Reine Mathilde
14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 06 98 45 Visit the website
- Château de Caen 14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 30 47 90 Visit the website
Eglise Abbatiale de la Trinité
Place Reine Mathilde
14000 CAEN Tel : 02 31 86 13 11 Visit the website
- Cimetière Militaire Britannique 14610 CAMBES-EN-PLAINE Tel : 02 31 27 14 14
Parc et Jardin du Château d'Outrelaise
14680 GOUVIX Tel : 02 31 79 03 64 Visit the website
Ornavik, des Vikings aux Normands - Parc historique
Domaine de Beauregard
14200 HEROUVILLE-SAINT-CLAIR Tel : 02 31 52 40 90 Visit the website
- Cimetière Militaire Britannique 14250 THUE ET MUE Tel : 02 31 27 14 14